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Who is the Evil Empire?
12 years ago  ::  Dec 08, 2006 - 5:01AM #1
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December 8, 2006

On Baseball

Talk of Misconduct Is Swirling Around Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox might think of the Yankees
as the Evil Empire, but other people in baseball now seem to view the
Red Sox as a team that feels it can operate outside the rules.

According to executives of several clubs, the Red Sox were a hot
topic of private conversation at the general managers⁈⁚ meeting last
month and at the winter meetings this week. Several officials who work
for Major League Baseball said there appeared to be good reason for the
talk. Many of those interviewed did not want to be quoted by name
because of what they viewed as the sensitivity of talking critically
about another team⁈⁚s conduct.

⁈ ¢

Exhibit A for the disgruntled is Boston⁈⁚s signing of J. D. Drew, who
walked away from the final three years of his contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers,
a move that his agent, Scott Boras, said was aboveboard and
precipitated by the marketplace. The signing of Drew could lead to an
investigation by the commissioner⁈⁚s office into possible tampering by
the Red Sox; one baseball official said the commissioner⁈⁚s office would
vigorously investigate the matter if it received a complaint, but added
that no complaint has been forthcoming.

One general manager said that many people at the general managers⁈⁚
meeting, after hearing that Drew would sign with Boston, urged the
Dodgers to file a tampering charge.

⁈Å"We haven⁈⁚t reached a decision yet,⁈  Ned Colletti, the Dodgers⁈⁚
general manager, said by telephone yesterday before leaving the winter
meetings in Orlando, Fla.

Others described Colletti as angry about the Drew development and
said that relations between Colletti and Theo Epstein, Boston⁈⁚s general
manager, had become strained to the point where Colletti wasn⁈⁚t
returning Epstein⁈⁚s telephone calls.

Epstein denied tampering with Drew, whom he tried unsuccessfully to
sign two years ago and then signed earlier this week to a five-year,
$70 million contract.

⁈Å"That⁈⁚s not true,⁈  Epstein said by telephone yesterday. ⁈Å"There⁈⁚s nothing to that.⁈ 

Epstein said he had no conversations with Boras before Drew became a
free agent. That occurred when Drew opted out of his Dodgers contract
on Nov. 10. Skeptics suspect that the Red Sox let Drew know that if he
exercised his right to leave the Dodgers, he could get a more lucrative
contract from them.

An executive of one club said the Dodgers⁈⁚ owner, Frank McCourt, was certain tampering had occurred. McCourt⁈⁚s office said he was traveling yesterday and not available to comment.

Two years ago, Drew signed a five-year, $55 million contract with
the Dodgers with a clause that allowed him to terminate the deal after
two years.

At various times last season, Drew displayed what appeared to be
positive feelings about playing in Los Angeles, and uniformed members
of the Dodgers told people in the front office that Drew had told them
he intended to stay with the team.

Six days before the end of the season, Drew told Bill Plunkett of
The Orange County Register that he was happy in Los Angeles and had not
thought about the opt-out clause. He said he did not plan to use it.

⁈Å"At some point,⁈  he remarked, ⁈Å"you make those commitments and you stick to them.⁈ 

Even closer to the opt-out deadline, several days before it, Drew
told Rich Donnelly, the Dodgers⁈⁚ third-base coach, how much he was
looking forward to the 2007 season and talked about what the Dodgers
needed to do for the season, saying he couldn⁈⁚t wait for it to arrive,
according to a baseball executive.

A few days later he left the Dodgers, walking away from a guaranteed
$33 million. Drew is a talented but fragile player who had been on the
disabled list seven times in his eight-year career and has never played
as many as 110 games two years in a row.

⁈Å"I don⁈⁚t think he⁈⁚s the kind of player who would walk away from $33
million without some idea of what was out there,⁈  a baseball official

Boras said his client walked away from the contract because he had told him what the market was for a player of his caliber.

⁈Å"I did my due diligence,⁈  Boras said in a telephone interview.
⁈Å"There were a number of teams that need a 3, 4 or 5 hitter, and J. D.
was the only center fielder. I went to the Dodgers a week before the
opt-out date and had lunch with Colletti. I had not yet met with J. D.
I said if you want to talk about it, we are prepared to talk because J.
D. has enjoyed his time in L. A.⁈ 

The Dodgers, though, were not prepared to extend the current deal, so Drew decided to become a free agent, Boras said.

⁈Å"This is nothing other than a standard, customary free-agency
evaluation for me,⁈  Boras said. ⁈Å"I thought it was a very easy decision.⁈ 

Boras said he had no discussion about Drew with the Red Sox before
Nov. 10. ⁈Å"We adhere to the rules,⁈  he added. But others remain
skeptical. Club executives and baseball officials are also watching the
Red Sox negotiations with Boras for Daisuke Matsuzaka, the Japanese
pitcher, for whom Boston bid $51.1 million just for the right to talk
to him.

They have observed as Larry Lucchino, the Red Sox chief executive,
recently went to Japan to meet with the Matsuzaka⁈⁚s team, the Seibu
Lions, for the stated purpose of establishing a working agreement
between the teams. They have read with interest Boras⁈⁚s view that there
is no rule barring the Lions from sharing part of the posting fee with
the player, thus making it easier for the Red Sox to sign him for less
of their own money.

⁈Å"No one can enter into an agreement that would circumvent the
posting process,⁈  said Lou Melendez, major league baseball⁈⁚s vice
president for international operations. ⁈Å"What I read would seem to be a
way of getting around the posting process. The commissioner⁈⁚s office
would investigate. If you speak to the Japanese commissioner⁈⁚s office,
which we have, any kind of arrangement, this or any other, would not be
allowed.⁈ 

The commissioner⁈⁚s office wouldn⁈⁚t allow it for another reason: it
would be a way for the Red Sox to try to avoid paying the luxury tax,
since giving Matsuzaka a smaller contract would diminish the overall
Boston payroll.

⁈ ¢

Several executives of other teams have also cited the four-year-old
Kevin Millar case, in which the Red Sox signed Millar after the Florida Marlins
sold him to a Japanese team. Contrary to accepted practice, the Red Sox
then won the right to have Millar play for them, with Millar helping
their cause by saying he had changed his mind about playing in Japan.
The next year, he helped Boston win the World Series.

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